As the sun goes down tonight, Jews around the world will celebrate Rosh Hashana, the birthday of the world. What better time than September to celebrate new beginnings? Maybe it's because I've never really left the academic world, but this time of year feels ripe with change in a way that I've never felt at midwinter. I'm not one for new year's resolutions made in the dark of December, but the sunny days of late summer and early autumn have always seemed the perfect time to reflect on the previous year and reexamine where I want to concentrate my focus.
Since last Rosh Hashsana, I've gone through a lot. There's been strife and loss and really difficult choices. I've tried to act honorably and had my generosity returned with cold silence and that still hurts. Dear friends have left and more will be gone in the first weeks of the new year. They're not gone for good, but they leave empty spaces in our lives. I've been run ragged trying to meet all the commitments that marriage, family, work, parenting, and volunteering encompass. I've struggled with an illness that came out of nowhere and really messed me up for a time. And I've run up against the reality of my limitations in ways I'd never imagined possible. I've always known that sometimes the right choices are the hardest but I've never felt it like I have this year.
Despite all the challenges of the last year, I've also had the tremendous pleasure of watching my firstborn read from the Torah at his bar mitzvah. I still get teary when I think of the love and pride that overwhelmed me that day. Watching him take himself out into the wider world as he begins high school fills me with pride at his courage and sure sense of himself. I've watched as my younger son has learned to control his tempestuous emotions and worked to manage his peculiar challenges. Through this process he has matured and grown stronger in ways that warm my heart. My youngest has fairly exploded with curiosity and learning in the last year and I am repeatedly stunned by her ability to make connections and explore the world.
We use a lot of imagery this time of year that talks about missing the mark and I love that because it assumes, first of all, that we have a target and that, I suppose, is the first step in making sense of how we will spend our days. I tend to make the same promises to myself year after year about seeing my kids for who they are today and not getting too wound up about who they'll be later, about cultivating patience, about listening. I always miss the mark, guaranteed. Or, to be honest, I just forget about it altogether.
So how lovely it is that we get an opportunity each year for a fresh start, like hitting a reset button. I find these holidays to be challenging, but also very rewarding. Writing this post has taken many attempts as there's just so much whirling through my brain right now. What I know, deep down and with perfect clarity, is that I crave that promise of renewal his year like no other.
So let it be that all who are seeking it find a new beginning and a sweet year.